Clarion Chukwurah Calls for legislation for the Unionization of the Nigerian Movie Industry

Clarion ChukwuraClarion Chukwurah

THE UNIONIZATION OF THE NIGERIAN MOVIE INDUSTRY

THE NIGERIAN MOVIE WORKERS’ UNION

MY BRIEF

UNIONIZATION OF THE NIGERIAN MOVIE INDUSTRY
BY: CLARION CHUKWURAH

HISTORY:

The Nigerian film industry, which in the context of this Unionization Bid Press Conference comprise only of Nigerian dramatic film content produced for commerce by independent Nigerian film makers working in Nigeria after independence, began as a celluloid film making industry without any clear cut structure with Wole
Soyinka’s “Kongi’s Harvest”, “Son of Africa” starring Funsho Adeolu, Ola Balogun’s directorial repertoire of, Ade Afolayan’s films, Hubert Ogunde’s films, Moses Olaiya’s films and Francoise Balogun’s Money Power, to Jab Adu’s ‘Bisi, daughter of the River’, Eddie Ugbomah’s films, Afolabi Adesanya’s ‘Vigilante’, and works by other film makers like “Black Goddess”, “The Mask”, “Vendor”, “Blues for a Prodigal” and a few others. A continuity of indigenous stories representative of the then current existing lifestyle and happenings in Nigeria/Black Africa socially and politically. This gradual growth of cinematic artistry was stifled by the economic downturn of Nigeria which put film stock completely out of the reach of the film makers’ financial ability and sent the Nigerian film industry to sleep, creating the vacuum that the present home video industry, the ingenious alternative of the new generation Yoruba and English television Plays, Soap Operas and TV. Movie Directors and Producers of the late 1980s and early 1990s across Southern Nigeria stepped in to fill, still without structure simply providing entertainment on a direct home based commercial sale format as opposed to the Cinema Culture of the Colonialists which replaced our original Village Square THEATRE IN THE ROUND entertainment format.

The present home video industry being a child of circumstance funded by non professionals have defied in twenty years every attempt at structurization that will define it as a colossal private enterprise independent of government, dependent only on itself and necessary Union negotiated bi-lateral trade agreements that will afford it constant smooth interaction on all levels of production and distribution with other Unionized Nations’ film industries throughout Africa and the World.

GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT:

In 1979, the Nigerian government set up a Nigerian Film Corporation with its 1979 Act under Brendan Shehu. It thereafter set up the Nigerian Film and Video Census Board. It set up in 1992, a committee to formulate for it a National Film Policy, and in 1996, a National Film Institute.

From 1999 – 2004 as DG/MD of the Nigerian Film Corporation, Dr. Hyginus Ozoemena Ekwuazi, drew up the modalities for the setting up of the Motion Picture Practitioners Council of Nigeria and the various guilds of the Nigerian home video industry and in a paper presented by Mr. Afolabi Adesanya, Managing Director and C.E.O of the Nigerian Film Corporation at the 50th General Assembly of the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON), at Lokoja, on Monday 17th, August, 2009, Mr. Afolabi Adesanya said, and I quote, ‘AT THE NIGERIAN FILM CORPORATION, WE ARE PUTTING IN PLACE A REGULATORY COUNCIL KNOWN AS THE MOTION PICTURE COUNCIL OF NIGERIA, (MOPICON) FOR THE FILM INDUSTRY TO ENSURE THAT PRACTITIONERS PLAY BY THE RULES. WHEN ESTABLISHED, MOPICON WOULD SET THE MINIMUM STANDARDS IN PRODUCTION, POST-PRODUCTION AND MARKETING AS WELL AS DISTRIBUTION. AND ALSO TO PUT IN PLACE A MECHANISM THAT WILL ENSURE THE SUSTAINABLE GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE FILM INDUSTRY IN NIGERIA .’

Through MOPICON the Nigerian Government is about to create a Government Parastatal through which intends to run the Nigerian film industry as another arm of Government like NTA, FRCN, as just another Broadcasting Network of the Nigerian Government BUT the Nigerian Film industry is a Private concern of Nigerian Film Workers and Owners comprising of learned professionals in the Arts and business men/women investors in the Arts and not a Government concern. The Government infringement so far is borne out of the seeming appearance that Nigerian Professionals in Film making don’t seem to have an idea of what to do in creating a structure for their industry with the externally funded internal conflicts tearing the various guilds and associations apart on a daily basis in the last eight years. This has given rise to my study of the Evolution Process of the American Film Industry which we presently are towing its line, my arrival at the need for UNIONIZATION OF THE NIGERIAN FILM INDUSTRY and consultations with Union leaders like Comrade Sylvester Ejiofor, Comrade Henry Odugala the General Secretary of Radio, Television and the Arts Workers Union who is here present representing himself and Rattawu President, on an immediate affiliation of a NIGERIAN MOVIE WORKERS UNION on the one hand and a NIGERIAN MOVIE OWNERS UNION on the other as a temporary arrangement while these two unions representative of the Nigerian film industry’s true practitioners not teachers, government appointees or employees, seek legislation for separate Unionization after having spent a minimum of three years paying tax through this affiliation to government which would afford the industry the right and credibility to seek and get legislation passed on our behalf by the National Assembly.

WHY WE NEED UNIONIZATION:

‘‘Before Hollywood, There Was Fort Lee…’’ which is to say before sophisticated structural organization, there would always be the years of seeming un-organization which are those years every industry spend in cutting her teeth.

As in other industries, the first organizations in the film industry proper are mostly the craft guilds, associations and benevolent societies created as learning and service organizations meant to maintain high standards of quality within each craft and these are often modeled like in Nigeria from inception as fraternal cliques along ethnic lines but no meaningful growth to the film industry, lifestyle of its practitioners or protection of their work can be gained from this initial style of the non uniform structure backed by law which
enables it to contest broadly in court and get the right amount of reparations in law. Right now, what is operative in the industry are poorly produced content, poorly paid practitioners, low budget/non existent product publicity, limited distribution and a Ghana Union influenced market strategy take over of Nigerian Actors’ jobs in Nigeria by Ghanaian Actors due to lack of a legislation backed structure that protects Nigerian Actors, equally operative, is the bane of movie owners and their hired producers giving the job of professionals to the un-trained at will in the face of Guilds who are powerless to stop this trend for lack of any legislative backing.

Unionization will afford correction of the un-organized image of the Nigerian Film Industry, the present impression to corporate bodies, the ordinary Nigerian, the Nigerian government and interested foreign partners. Unionization will open the door that foreign film industries have been waiting to walk through to interact with Nigerian film workers and owners based on merit, based on choice not reference. Unionization will enable the Nigerian movie workers request their right at any time through dialogue or necessary pressure from the Nigerian movie owners without any government interference because this are two market forces dependent on each other for production. Twice in the past, the Actors and Directors Guilds of Nigeria had called strikes because members wanted improved working terms, these strikes failed because they are registered only as associations, and not representative of all Movie Actors And Directors in Nigeria. The present coalition of guilds is still not representative of all movie makers in Nigeria neither can any one umbrella body represent workers and owners i.e. employees and employers without creating constant conflicts of interest.

Workers and Owners, have to belong to two separate unions on each side of a clear cut divide to actualize the industry as the money spinning machine it is being touted to be (by the UNDP Statistics? so called third or is it second largest in the World Film Industry) for its practitioners and government without resorting to government funding but legitimately request that 50% of the earnings of the Nigerian Film and Video Census Board from practitioners from inception to date be given back as Grant to fund the industry’s Unionization
costs, and henceforth be annually recycled into the funding of a piracy management task force under the Union run by industry players who are so trained for that purpose and union staff salaries. Unionization will also create the earning power for star actors to afford agents, entertainment lawyers and other relevant associate workers enabling the industry to take its proper form and shape. Unionization will separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls in the movie owners union with the right investment which will give each owner the proper motivation not just to make his/her money back but to run away with his/her profit.

What the Nigerian film industry needs are two unions representative, one; of the workers who are employed film makers as a Nigerian Movie Workers Union, two; the Nigerian Movie Owners Union representative of the Executive Producers who are owners therefore employers in the industry.

NIGERIAN MOVIE WORKERS: DEFINITION

There are industry definitions of the various employments of the film making personnel because these are not civil service jobs and so not carefully delineated, sometimes one title covers a number of different kinds of
responsibilities depending on the way a Producer, Director or Film Company defines the position. For instance, a gaffer can double as an electrician and/or a location scout and sometimes jobs overlap as in the case of an Art Director who is also the production designer but whatever the title or designation, a movie worker in the context of this presentation and Unionization is anyone who inputs non financially into the process of the final end product film content and therefore call the film their Artistic Investment.

NIGERIAN MOVIE OWNERS: DEFINITION

A producer in the existing Nigerian context is sometimes also the Executive Producer. In the context of this presentation and Unionization, a movie owner comprises of all persons/company who input financially into the production process that result in the end product that is the film content and therefore call the film their Financial Investment.

UNIONIZATION

I, as Clarion Chukwurah, a 31year veteran of dramatic arts in Nigeria, a career that has spanned the Nigerian stage theatre from 1979, television from the days of NTV in 1979 to NTA, to Celluloid Film, to the present Home Video Industry, and having represented my Country internationally severally as a Dramatist, and won Gold for Nigeria as an actress in South America, and having been consistently encouraged and assured of support by notable Nigerians in Nigeria and in the diaspora to come forward with a solution for structuring NOLLYWOOD, I have come forward with this call to Unionize the Nigerian Film Industry which consist of players from Northern Nigeria, Eastern Nigeria, Western Nigeria, the Niger Delta and the Middle Belt, asking that all representative bodies of the workers and owners of this industry from these sections of the Country send
stakeholders to a one week retreat at Akodo Resort in Lagos to brainstorm and work out the modalities for the Unionization of the Nigerian Film Industry right across Nigeria into two unions: The Nigerian Movie Workers Union and the Nigerian Movie Owners Union.

Each of these unions would be empowered to seek legislation to protect its work and members by paying tax to government. A movie workers union backed by legislation will ensure that no non union member works on any Nigerian film set, the union will ensure that only professionals work in the industry, the union will ensure that movie workers are paid nothing below the agreed fees, the union would provide a platform to look at, discuss and agree on the issues of royalties, so also will the union provide a platform for workers to pay tax to
the Nigerian government. And with this in place a movie owner will need to have the right budget to pay for the right equipment that a professional film maker require to produce the right quality of content, a movie owner will need to have the right budget to pay practitioners and by this the Nigerian film industry will no longer be an all comers affair where any happenstance can just jump into the fray and decide to produce a movie. Because, to produce a movie you will now need to belong to the movie owners union, or employ a producer from the workers union and produce by both the set rules of the workers union on the one side and
the owners union on the other side.

The quality of content will mirror the true quality of talent that this country has, workers will take their time to produce the right content and owners by virtue of the investment in each film will have the proper publicity and marketing network/budget that every film company should have to input into the distribution of each film in order to exhaustively tap profit from the sprawling market available in Nigeria and outside Nigeria.

I have consulted widely with my colleagues across the country in this Unionization Bid like Ms Zainab Ahmad, a notable Northern Film Producer, Mr. Madu Chikwendu, Regional Secretary of the Pan African Federation of Film Makers, Mr. Ebun Oloyede, of ANTP Lagos/Ogun State, Actors across the various sections of thecountry,some Guild Heads, and others. Therefore, I am also by this forum calling on GLOBACOM PLC, the communication giant which has most visibly identified with the Nigerian movie industry by Branding it’s products with Nigerian Movie Workers, to come forward and BRAND THIS HISTORICAL SEVEN DAY SUMMIT OF ONE HUNDRED STAKEHOLDERS of the Nigerian Film Industry at the Akodo Resort, Lagos, in my bid to bring all the representative bodies under one single umbrella that will represent our industry to the world and place us in a
position of strength in law as a private sector industry.

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